This is a catalog of short films. To be exact: thirteen experimental animations from “the god of comics,” Tezuka Osamu. They are presented on the Singapore based video-streaming site, Viki, which is a cross between Wikipedia and other streaming sites like Hulu and Netflix. The neat, Wiki-esque function of Viki is that the subtitles for its multilingual videos are user generated. So if you like adding to the global knowledge bank/working for free, start translating!
Episode 1: Tale of Street Corner (1962, 39min.)
Episode 2: Male (1962, 3min.)
Episode 3: Memory (1964, 6min.)
Episode 4: Mermaid (1964, 8min.)
Episode 5: Drop (1965, 4min.)
Episode 6: Pictures at the Exhibition (1966, 33min.)
Episode 7: The Genesis (1968, 4min.)
Episode 8: Jumping (1984, 6min.)
Episode 9: Broken Down Film (1985, 6min.)
Episode 10: Push (1987, 4min.)
Episode 11: Muramasa (1987, 9min.)
Episode 12: The Legend of the Forest (1987, 30min.)
Episode 13: Self Portrait (1988, 14sec.)
Tezuka Osamu (1928-1989) is known as the Walt Disney of Japan. No, not Hayao Miyazaki. Tezuka Osamu! If you haven’t heard the name, you probably know of Astro Boy, Osamu’s answer to Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop.
Astro Boy is a huge franchise with television series, manga, and feature films. The most recent iteration was produced by Imagi Studios – who brought us such CGI reboots as TMNT (2007) – and stars U.S. national treasure, Nic Cage, as the voice of Astro’s father. The “success” of Astro Boy (2009) – panned by critics, suffered losses at the box office – is not reflective of the impact of Osamu’s original creation. The 1959 series, Mighty Atom, and the subsequent productions helped shape many of the stylistic markers of anime.
Like the big eyes…
The symbolic facial expressions…
The static and/or simplistic backgrounds…
As mentioned above, the big eyes were imported from Walt Disney and Max Fleishcer, but the latter two were due to economic constraints. In order to get the green light for Mighty Atom, Osamu had to accept an extremely low budget. To cut costs, he created a databank of stock facial expressions to be reused when needed and used static or abstract backgrounds to cut down on drawing time. Oddly enough, these constraints helped Osamu create a visual style that was both experimental and entertaining.
Though most of Osamu’s popular output was geared towards kids, he also revolutionized the adult animation market. Not in the Pixar way, where there’s enough wit and innuendo for mom and dad to enjoy. But in the you’ll-understand-when-you’re-older, explicit sex kind of way. In 1970, Osamu made history again with the release of Cleopatra, Queen of Sex, the first X-rated animated feature film. Cleopatra is part of the Animerama series along with A Thousand and One Nights (1969) and Belladonna of Sadness (1973).* These three films started a wave of anime television series and feature films for adult audiences. It should be noted that “adult” needs to be taken in a twofold manner: as in the level of mental maturity and the pornographic. Both of which have flourished over the past 40 years, and, of course, not always in a mutually inclusive manner.
– Paul Gonter
*Belladonna of Sadness is the only film of the series not directed by Osamu. Eiichi Yamamoto, who co-directed the first two in the series, served as director, and with full control, he took the series in a very dark, psychedelic direction that was heavily influence by the work of decedent illustrator, Aubrey Beardsley. A precursor to the poetic apocalyptic joylessness of existential anime to come.